Copyright © 2000 Henrietta W. Hay
Rembering Our Freedoms
September 13, 2002
There are no adequate words of comfort for those who lost loved ones on
September 11, although millions have been written, or for the American
people who watched a dream shattered, or for the incredible bravery of
the rescuers. And there are no words to describe the horror of the
monstrous evil that took place.
Time magazine said, "An anniversary can be sweet or solemn, but either
way, it is only the echo, not the cry. From this distance we can hear
whatever we are listening for. We can argue that September 11 changed
everything -- or nothing."
I think that we have to know that in the best sense, it changed
nothing. The American nation was born in revolution, has survived the
Civil War, two World Wars and numerous smaller ones, and we will survive
The best way that we can remember that awful day is to maintain in
America the freedoms that have made it great, that have survived. To
do anything else is to let the terrorists win.
And those freedoms are in danger today. In the name of patriotism and
self defense, we are losing many of the civil rights that we have
defended for 200 years. The charge is being led by Attorney General
John Ashcroft, who seems not to understand American traditions. He
needs to read what Benjamin Franklin wrote in the Historical Review of
Pennsylvania in 1759, "
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
According to Jonathan Turley writing for the Los Angeles Times, "Ever
since Ashcroft pushed the U. S. Patriot Act through an overwhelming
supine Congress soon after September 11, he has subverted more elements
of the Bill of Rights than any attorney general in American history."
The Patriot Act contains 342 pages and most members of Congress admitted
that they had read only a few paragraphs or none at all. President Bush
enthusiastically signed it on October 26. We do not know whether he
Among its many provisions, the Act allows government access to the
books, videos, internet messages which we read, listen to and write. It
also says that anyone defined as an "enemy combatant," including
American citizens, can be held indefinitely by the government without
charges, a hearing or a lawyer.
But even more dangerous is Mr. Ashcroft's resistance to any criticism or
dissent. In a blatant attempt to stifle growing criticism of recent
government policy, he delivered testimony recently equating legitimate
political dissent with something unpatriotic and Un-American.
Freedom of thought and freedom to dissent have been cornerstones of our
country. From the Civil War to the civil rights struggle free and
robust debate is one of the main engines of social and political
Wendell Willkie set a wonderful example in 1940 when he wrote to
Franklin Roosevelt who had just defeated him for the Presidency, "We who
stand ready to serve our country behind our Commander in Chief,
nevertheless retain the right, and I will say the duty, to debate the
course of our government."
As a nation we must maintain our right to honest dissent. We cannot let
the terrorists destroy the very essence of America.
"May we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion."
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), U. S.. general, Republican politician,
and president. Speech, 31 May 1954, New York City.
Mr. Ashcroft, read your history books.
And let's give the last word to Molly Ivins, "Some of the super-patriots
running around need to get a grip. We can't make ourselves safer by
making ourselves less free."